My Princeton Covid-19 talk onYouTube, with slides

Here is the link, it is about one hour long, with questions interspersed throughout, the title is “The future social and political implications of COVID-19.”  Self-recommending!


Okay, non-Economist here but shouldn't the distinction be between Keynes and Hayek? This Stalin vs. Hayek thing is a straw man argument.

Just throw around words like "polemic" and "provocative" and you can get away with abandoning any pretense of intellectual discipline.

Economists should not make predictions

It provides the sort of proof that economics is merely pretending to be a science, much less a rigorous one.

Then who *should* make predictions? Epidemiologists? Mathematicians? Fortune-tellers?

On point, providing the sort of proof that mouthbreathers in comments sections merely pretend to understand what prediction in the context of science actually means.

Of course, the answer is everyone. Epstein, whose laughable predictions remain subject to correction, is an American legal scholar known for his writings on subjects such as torts, contracts, property rights, law and economics, classical liberalism, and libertarianism.

Anyone can make predictions, the art is realizing what predictions to take seriously. Though in the case of someone like Epstein, thta anyone ever took him seriously for a minute regarding a novel pandemic shows the tragic results of getting not only the prediction wrong, but in assuming that predictions regarding a pandemic from such a figure have even the slightest validity at all.

It is not that predicting the future is hard - that is a given - it is simply that all predictions are not created equal.

Cowen making predictions (predictions of the future anyway) is out of character for him. His predictions in this talk are social and political predictions rather than economic predictions. His prediction about federalism (back to the future) is important: the Trump administration's incompetence (my observation) will result in a shift of authority from the national to the state level. See the end of my comment for an important qualification to his prediction. His predictions about health care (hospital insolvency) and small business (under-capitalized firms will never return) may be accurate but overlooks (1) Medicare sent providers a 90 day advance on Medicare payments and (2) the PPP program is helping small firms (under 500 employees) which need it the least. I've yet to see (1) reported in the media. Using banks as the middleman in (2) has put the most well capitalized small firms (i.e., firms with as solid relationship with their bank) at the front of the line in the filing and funding of PPP loans. Cowen's prediction that finding effective vaccines and treatments is the key to an economic recovery (V-shaped or otherwise) is spot on. This should be approached by governments and firms with greater urgency than the Manhattan project. Finally, Cowen's prediction that big (firms and economies) will prosper and small will not fits with his well-known preference for big business (and small government). This prediction is consistent with my observation about relatively small business and PPP: the larger the small business, the greater likelihood of receiving a PPP loan and survival.

Federalism: the moderator makes an essential point about the shift in federalism: state governments can't borrow or print money, only the national government can. With state revenues collapsing with their economies, how can the states take on the enormous task of finding effective treatments and vaccines and of funding the economic recovery (i.e., fiscal stimulus).

On my comment about federalism, here's a good article about the Trump administration's abdication of responsibility and the ability of the states and non-state actors to develop and implement a coordinated strategy to defeat the coronavirus: Having abdicated responsibility for defeating the coronavirus, can one expect the administration to develop and coordinate a strategy for economic recovery? I think not; indeed, what I expect from the Trump administration is a Mafia strategy: rewarding friends of Trump and punishing enemies of Trump.

"Cowen making predictions (predictions of the future anyway) is out of character for him."

Cowen is best known for his 2010 Great Stagnation book and prediction where he said the U.S. will not have strong productivity until the 2040s. He also predicted that there will be no significant medical breakthroughs by 2030.

Fair enough, but I was referring to the typical economist's prediction for next quarter's or next year's economic (or employment or inflation or whatever) growth. The predictions you refer to aren't really economic predictions as such but societal directions. Cowen is a polymath and his predictions are in that context.

I'm pretty sure productivity is an economic variable.

So, TC gives the impression that China will come out of this considerably strengthened relative to the USA and other western services-based economies.

Not my impression from listening to Cowen's talk. Indeed, he lumped the developed (industrial) economies of China and the U.S. together as having an advantage over smaller, less industrialized countries. It's the strategy of the Trump and his administration to demonize the Chinese, which they hope and expect will detract attention from the administration's on-going failure in this crisis. I did get the impression that Cowen believes that strategy will have some success.

Yes I agree with your comment in terms of his comments on manufacturing. And yes he was explicit in his statements about the Trump admin wanting to distract USA public attention from their poor performance.

I was referring to TC's apparent medium to longterm (2 to 5 year) views. eg around Chinese students likely choosing to be educated in China as being a significant loss (both through direct revenue and in intellectual inputs) to western economies.

There is a good chance that China will dominate the post-COVID world the same way that the US dominated the post-WWII world, if they play their cards right and if the West immolates itself by total-shutdown-until-vaccine.

Maybe they should mobilize the Internet troll brigades to encourage that outcome, possibly by making the end-the-shutdown case prematurely, obnoxiously and unconvincingly.

Oh, Tyler, can't we have a transcript? The fans love transcripts.

Your attempted conflation of a media stereotyped woke culture, which never had much purchase outside a college campus, with the actual left solutions that were already prominent but are becoming more relevant in this crisis, medicare-for-all, ubi, unions, etc, is embarrassing.

It really is directly equivalent to the strategies right wing pundits use to distract their audiences. When did you become so scared of looking at reality straight on? This is one transgender bathroom reference away from being a fox news presentation.

"Stereotyped woke culture" and "actual left" are actually all the same people. Try pursuing an "actual left" political agenda without genuflecting to wokeness and see how far you get. No one has dared.

The only way this changes is... if the Republican party uses this crisis to co-opt the most viable elements of the actual-left agenda. UBI maybe. Not as far-fetched as you might imagine, given past history: think of the Southern strategy, or not caring anymore about balancing budgets, or the currently ongoing transition from pro-business and pro-free-trade to protectionist populism.

How was the southern strategy adopting left policies? Do you actually know the historical events those words refer to? That's just nakedly stupid. The right gave up caring about balanced budgets before I was born.

Its not about not genuflecting towards 'woke culture', which has valid and morally obvious concerns, its about not making it the focus of your politics, which the Sanders campaign did, to mixed success. The point is that even if woke culture does go into decline, as Cowen assumes, this would do nothing to diminish the much more central economic goals of the left that are becoming more relevant to everyone, it would be just another source of their increasing strength and prominence.

If you knew anything at all about history you'd know that free trade was also not that long ago considered a left-wing policy, when FDR introduced it. Its not necessarily left or right in any first principles sense.

Just throwing concepts together does not make analysis.

The Southern strategy was not about left politics, duh. The obvious broader point that you somehow missed was the Republicans opportunistically pursuing new votes by flipping their policies, as they have done more than once in the past.

Your sense of time is incoherent. The right gave up on balanced budgets less than 20 years ago ("before you were born"?), when Dubya's tax cuts and the 9/11 wars drained the surpluses of the late Clinton years. But meanwhile FDR, 80 years in the past, is "not that long ago". Ok then. By that token, Abraham Lincoln was "not that long ago" compared to the debut of the Southern strategy.

You say "if the Republican party uses this crisis to co-opt the most viable elements of the actual-left agenda," and then use as a previous example the southern strategy. How am I not supposed to take that as you calling the southern strategy left wing?

The right gave up on balanced budgets, outside of rhetoric, in 1980, when they elected a President who endorsed supply-side economics, which was a few years before I was born.

The larger point is that even if the Republicans do adopt these ideas it wont stop them from being left wing, no more than Social Security has continued to be a social democratic policy or the NHS in Britain, even when conservatives adopt them.

The more these ideas become the accepted policy the more the left has won. Cliche old man complaints about woke culture can continue but they won't matter against that reality. Sophistry is not much use against the larger forces of history.

Spanish government unpopularity is has to do with Gen-Xers and Millennials having little tolerance for corruption and self serving behavior, attached to a political class that is built on nothing but corruption and self serving behavior.

There was a significant wave towards new parties in the last 6 years: In practice, both the left and the right traditional parties got new competition, but the leaders of both of those parties made some serious mistakes slowing down their future growth. Still, they've not quite disappeared, so every chance of a government requires eating pills that are too bitter for Spaniards to be OK with, as small parties ask for way too much.

In the case of the latest government, Anyone paying any attention knew that the women's march should not have been held, but canceling it was not something a leftist government was willing to do: It is seen as taking a health risk for an event that was great PR for the government. The yearly women's march had been weaponized politically before: Right wing pro-abortion, anti-violence politicians weren't welcome.

So the heads of every party are seen very badly, but there is no such thing as a sensible primary system anywhere: In practice only people that pay dues can vote in said primaries, so an overwhelming majority of Spaniards have no say there.

This is also why Spain has good views of Europe: Your average Spaniard believes that only the worst populists are worse than Spain's political class.

Been reading your blog for over a decade Tyler, I found that analysis brilliant in its insights and among the best of MR.

How is it people still pronounce Cowen wrong? Seems to happen with half his interviewers.
Tyler prepares by reading everything you've written since high school and you prepare by guessing what his name is.

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